�8m facelift for leisure centre

Exmouth’s ageing leisure centre is to get a multi-million pound facelift, which could be completed as early as 2013.

This week, Leisure East Devon (LED) chief executive Peter Gilpin exclusively revealed his plans to the Journal for a refitted, glass-fronted, wooden-panelled ‘21st century’ centre costing between �6m and �8m.

Concept designs show a new entrance and reception area next to a new caf�, complete with an outdoor decked area, looking out across the estuary.

Next to the reception, designers have added a children’s soft play area, while the existing 25-metre swimming pool would be completely refitted with a spectator gallery added.

The existing first-floor gym would increase in size, possibly expanding to the adjacent fitness studio, with up to three exercise studios, a day spa and a toning studio added.

But these would be at the cost of the existing sports hall, which would be moved to another facility - two indoor courts at the Withycombe Tennis Centre could be converted into multi-use courts for sports such as basketball.

Negotations with the community college could see LED use their facilities for sports like badminton and indoor football.

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These plans are additional to the �150,000 of developer cash rubberstamped by the town hall last week to upgrade the Phear Park tennis courts and to create a multi-sport court.

But the lynch pin of the new leisure centre plans is the adjacent district council-owned GWR club building – the current lease expires in four years’ time.

Two blueprints have been drawn up - depending on what district bosses and club members decide.

Either the centre could expand by about 10 per cent onto the club’s footprint, or develop in phases around the building.

Depending on funding and planning approval, some work could start in 12 months’ time and be completed by 2013.

Mr Gilpin said a ‘worst case’ would be that the work would not be realised until 2018 – but, once finished, the centre would lead to the creation of at least 10 jobs.

He said: “The current leisure centre is now over 25 years old – the sports hall was originally an engine shed and part of the old train station.

“We have not just scribbled this on the back of a fag packet - we have done this properly.

“Three different companies have offered their services free of charge and come up with these concept proposals.

“We hope this will be the catalyst for positive change in Exmouth.

“We now have a 20th Century leisure centre. We want it to be a 21st Century leisure centre.”